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Clips Nation Roundtable: Reflecting on the first month of the season

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With the first four weeks of the season in the books, the Clips Nation staff shares their impressions of the Clippers so far, and what they’re looking forward to as the season goes on.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

1. What have you most enjoyed about the Clippers to start the season?

Kenneth Armstrong: I have most enjoyed watching Shai earn his way into the starting role and being surprised by his offensive output. I was very optimistic about him as a prospect, but I didn’t expect him to be so confident on offense. The poise he has around the rim and his midrange shooting proficiency have my imagination for what he can be — once he adds a quicker catch-and-shoot release — expanding by the day.

Davey Bales: From Boban Marjanovic’s emergence as clear-cut fan favorite to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rapid ascent into the starting lineup and national conversation, there’s a lot to love about these new-look Clippers. Fresh faces have injected a lovable underdog quality to this year’s team that I haven’t felt since the beloved 2005-06 squad. As much as I appreciate what the Lob City Clippers were able to accomplish as a perennial playoff lock, the talk of the squad becoming stale undeniably permeated the on-the-floor product by the end of their tenure together. Rather than fold in what could have been a difficult transitional year, this team has embraced an unselfish offensive approach and committed on the defensive end of the floor, effectively energizing a fan base and rewarding the organization’s attempt to remain competitive in the face of uncertainty. In place of the rumors of internal turmoil and persistent on-court issues, I’ve particularly enjoyed watching a roster constructed of high-energy players who complement one another well and truly seem to enjoy going to battle together night in and night out.

Max Jeffrey: An 8-5 record isn’t particularly remarkable at first glance, but the quality and consistency of effort from the Clippers, from one game to the next, has been extraordinary. Back-to-back wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors were also a huge plus. But watching Montrezl Harrell has been the most enjoyable attribute of the Clippers’ season so far; I’m not sure if there’s anyone else in the game right now who hustles harder per second at both ends of the floor. (Honorable mention to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whose development is moving along much more quickly than anticipated.)

Robert Flom: I’m sure just about everyone else will say Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, so I’ll go a different route (even though he’s been incredible). The most enjoyable element of the Clippers’ season to me so far has been the play of Montrezl Harrell. He’s elevated his stats in almost every area and has particularly improved on the defensive end. But what’s been best is that Harrell has somehow retained his 100% “give everything you’ve got” energy level while playing longer minutes against tougher opponents. He’s just a dynamic, powerful force on the court who never stops moving, and watching him dive for loose balls, sprint for chase down blocks, and dunk all over the opposition has been incredibly fun. He’s just one of the most enjoyable players in the NBA right now.

Sabreena Merchant: I enjoy how competitive the Clippers are. Setting aside one inexplicable outing against OKC, the Clippers have been in every game, playing quite a few of them down to the wire, and winning more than they lose. If a team is putting up a good fight every night, and with an entertaining brand of basketball to boot — seriously, I can’t express how great Montrezl Harrell is to watch — there isn’t much more you can ask for.

Michelle Uzeta: The demonstrated unselfishness and willingness to put team success over individual accomplishments. This roster personifies coach Mike Krzyzewski’s quote: ”A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist.” The Clippers are playing like a fist.

2. What is something different that you would like to see going forward, or something you would like to see more of going forward?

Kenneth Armstrong: I would like to see more pick and roll sets in the Clippers’ offense. I don’t have the play type breakdown at my disposal, but my eyes tell me the Clippers are too reliant on isolation plays, late in the shot clock. Gortat has been unimpressive thus far, so perhaps Doc can get him going with more pick and rolls as well as limit the number of Lou Williams fadeaways we are getting with five seconds left on the shot clock.

Davey Bales: It has to be more of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the ball in his hands. Although Doc has garnered a reputation for being reluctant to let rookies see much of the floor, he hasn’t had a rookie force his hand quite like SGA has in his Clippers tenure. Avery Bradley’s balky ankle expedited SGA’s introduction to a starting role, and all indications point to him keeping his spot with the unit. In the Clippers’ last three games, against the Blazers, Bucks, and Warriors no less, SGA averaged 17.7 points on 56 percent shooting while also chipping in 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He plays with remarkable control for a rookie, and though he’s still prone to the occasional sloppy turnover, he does an excellent job keeping the offense moving as the primary ball-handler. Good things happen when he’s on the court, and I’m hopeful that he’ll become increasingly assertive in demanding the ball and looking for opportunities to get to the rim as he continues to rack up minutes as an NBA starter.

Max Jeffrey: The Clippers have been pretty complete as a team, but I’d certainly like to see them more readily shoot the three ball. Even Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, highly efficient and capable outside shooters, pass up open looks in lieu of drive-and-kick or drive-and-turn-the-ball-over opportunities. The Clippers rank second in the league in 3-point percentage this season at 38.8 percent, right behind the Warriors. Going forward, the Clippers need to let the ball fly from beyond the arc.

Robert Flom: There’s one lineup that hasn’t played yet this season, an intriguing mix of starters and bench players which I think could be particularly deadly. That lineup is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Williams, Luc Mbah a Moute, Tobias Harris, and Montrezl Harrell. This combination has shooting, ball-handling, shot-creation, and defense, and could be a true force on both ends of the court, particularly against smaller lineups. It’s essentially the Clippers’ closing lineup but with Luc instead of Danilo Gallinari for extra defensive purposes, and I hope it sees some time once Luc is healthy.

Sabreena Merchant: I would love to see more Milos Teodosic. I understand that there is more long-term value in having Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tyrone Wallace handle the point guard duties, but Milos is so much fun to watch. He has an understanding of passing angles that is almost unparalleled on the Clippers, and around the league. The reserve units he commanded alongside Lou Williams and Shai were an offensive delight that annihilated other backups, and it would be fun to see Milos continue to dazzle in whatever limited minutes he can manage.

Michelle Uzeta: Closing out games has been a bit of a struggle for this squad. I’d like to see them trust their team offense more down the stretch, rather than fall back on multiple minutes of isolation ball. As good as guys like Lou Williams are in clutch situations, I think moving the ball and running the regular team offense will get the Clippers higher-percentage and easier looks at the basket.